For more than 100 years, your BMA annual representative meeting has had the same core format. BMA members from across the UK meet in one town or city, and spend several intense days discussing and debating the issues facing the profession.
Votes are cast and policy is made on behalf of every member. Members from different backgrounds and specialties, at different stages in their careers and representing each corner of the UK, meet in one place. This offers attendees new insights and opportunities to network and collaborate.
Attendance, however, has always come with some sacrifice. Be it our clinical jobs, annual leave, time with our families and friends or our caring responsibilities. Travelling and staying away from home as well as engaging in debate for the best part of a week is a considerable sacrifice.
And from talking to our members, we also know that for some medical students and doctors it was simply impossible to countenance such a commitment. These are the voices that our association couldn’t benefit from. And as we all know, our BMA’s greatest asset is the collective voice of our membership.
This has always meant that your ARM could never be fully representative of the medical students and doctors it serves. And over the years we had many debates about colleagues with caring responsibilities and those working less than full-time in the full knowledge that many of these colleagues weren’t enabled to give their voices in person at the event.
The pandemic, as in so many other areas of medicine, has brought opportunities as well as challenges. Your last two ARMs have taken place virtually. This has removed at a stroke many physical barriers to participation, but it’s also fair to say many of our members have missed the experience of meeting and discussing policy with hundreds of other medical students and doctors, with their divergent views and experiences.
With the above in mind, I am incredibly excited to tell you that, for the first time in more than a century, your BMA is changing the way we make policy, to be more accessible, to be more inclusive, and to listen more. This year, we hope to have come up with the ‘Goldilocks’ solution – an ARM that combines the convenience of online with the immediacy of face-to-face contact.
A representative meeting that is truly representative and gives all our members the opportunity to engage. Our meeting will be held in Brighton, and virtually, from 27 to 29 June. We hope that a hybrid ARM will make the event more accessible and inclusive to all members than ever before.
Whilst your ARM has been webcast live for quite some years, we now offer the opportunity for those at home to participate in debate! Those familiar with our meeting will also notice that we have shortened it. Historically, it spanned from registration on a Sunday to three full-day meetings spread across four days, concluding on a Thursday afternoon.
We know this time commitment was a barrier to many. Your ARM is now more compact and requires less time from its attendees, again, with a view to enabling more of you to join us. There has never been a better or more important time to engage in the work of your BMA. We will be making policy to support and protect doctors dealing with COVID and its aftermath, so that they can continue to care for their patients. The agenda is in the hands of you – our members. You submit motions. You tell us, what’s important to you.
This is just one way in which we are trying to make the BMA more accessible and inclusive to its members. The BMA is not a building in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast, but the sum total of its members’ energies, experience and interests. The more we as an association can harness our members’ immense talents and commitment, the better.
As always, do get in touch if you would like to know more and I welcome any feedback you may have on how we can better serve you.
My door is always open. Email me at [email protected]
Dr Latifa Patel is interim chair of the BMA representative body